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Team USA athletes earn medals at 2024 Para Athletics World Championships

United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, Press Release

The following are recaps for days two through four of the 2024 Para Athletics World Championships in Kobe, Japan.

Blackwell, Loccident set championship records, Team USA earns 3 medals on Day 2 in Kobe
Twenty-year-old Jaydin Blackwell (Oak Park, Mich.) defended his 100-meter T38 world title in record fashion as Team USA snagged a hat trick of medals on the second day of the 2024 Para Athletics World Championships in Kobe, Japan.

Also earning podiums for Team USA were Noah Malone (Fishers, Ind.), who took silver in a photo finish in the men’s 100-meter T12 and Derek Loccident (Oklahoma City, Okla.), who nabbed an unprecedented silver medal in his first-ever international high jump competition.

Blackwell set a meet record en route to his second consecutive world championships gold medal in the 100-meter. His time of 10.86 beat out the rest of the field by nearly two-tenths of a second.

“I just wanted to get out and run my race and not worry about anything else,” he said. “It feels really good. I love standing on that podium. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity, so to do it twice, it gives me determination and makes me want to do it again in future years.”

Blackwell was joined in the event final by U.S. teammates Ryan Medrano (Savannah, Ga.) and Nick Mayhugh (Manassas, Va.), who each put together strong performances to finish fifth and seventh, respectively. After setting a personal best in the prelim, Medrano did it again in the final, finishing in 11.13. Mayhugh’s time of 11.34 was a season’s best for the four-time Paralympic medalist.

Blackwell and Medrano look to qualify for their first Paralympic Games in Paris, while Mayhugh is seeking his second Paralympic berth. All three will return to the track for the 400-meter T38, while Medrano will also compete in the long jump.

“[Ryan and Nick] put so much work into this too,” Blackwell said. “All of us have such good work ethic when it comes to practice, treatment, taking care of our bodies. To have them with me means I’m not alone out there.”

Loccident’s high jump T64 silver medal came along with a championship record of his own after the 2023 long jump worlds silver medalist set a massive personal best by jumping 2.04 meters. In a mixed class event, Loccident’s jump was the first time a T64 athlete had ever cleared two meters at a world championships.

The former Division I football player added high jump to his repertoire just three months ago and now ranks among the world’s best. He said he surprised even himself with today’s result – it was the first time he had ever broken the two-meter mark.

“I’m honestly at a loss for words. You can’t really put this moment into words,” he said. “With being new to high jump, there were a lot of things I wasn’t comfortable with coming in like warm-up times. I was trying to keep everything simple so I was able to compete at a high level.”

Loccident still has his signature long jump on his plate in Kobe, as well as the 100-meter and javelin, another new event for him.

“At the end of the day, it’s just being an athlete,” he said of adding high jump and javelin. “It all began with me making the decision to go back into football after my train accident in 2018. A lot of those skills I built throughout that time are translating really well to track and field. Football really set the bar for me and what I’m capable of doing.”

In one of the tightest finishes of the championships thus far, Malone was edged by .02 seconds at the finish line, but claimed the third world championships medal of his career. His time of 10.55 was behind only Turkey’s Serkan Yildrim, who set a personal best by three-tenths of a second with a championship record-breaking run.

Four-time Paralympic medalist Roderick Townsend (Stockton, Calif.) put together a season’s best performance in the men’s long jump T47, jumping a best mark of 6.99 meters and placing fifth in a deep field.

Townsend took only four of his allotted six jumps in order to focus on his best event, the high jump, which will be contested on day three.

“Training has been amazing, and there has been some stuff that I’ve been doing really well, even if I wasn’t able to show it with the distance today,” Townsend said. “I had four fair jumps today, so that’s something to be proud of, even if the distance didn’t show it. High jump is going to be so exciting. I want to put on a show. I feel amazing. I’m looking forward to it.”

Competing in her worlds debut, Catarina Guimaraes (Cranford, N.J.) ran a personal-best time in the 100-meter T38 to qualify for her first career event final. The 20-year-old will race tomorrow night for a medal after posting a time of 13.68 in preliminary heat racing.

Team USA Medals – May 18

Jaydin Blackwell – men’s 100-meter T38

Derek Loccident – men’s high jump T64
Noah Malone – men’s 100-meter T12

Other Team USA Results
Ryan Medrano – 5th, men’s 100-meter T38
Roderick Townsend – 5th, men’s long jump T47
Nick Mayhugh – 7th, men’s 100-meter T38
Catarina Guimaraes – finals, women’s 100-meter T38.

• • •

Townsend soars to 5th consecutive high jump world title
Four-time Paralympic medalist Roderick Townsend (Stockton, Calif.) hasn’t lost a major high jump T47 competition in nearly a decade, and he continued his streak of dominance in the pouring rain May 19 for his fifth consecutive world title. Townsend battled through inclement weather to lead Team USA on the third day of the 2024 Para Athletics World Championships in Kobe, Japan.  

Townsend, who broke his own world record in the event at last year’s world championships, jumped 2.05 meters to best Nishad Kumar of India for the win.

“I feel great physically, I’m very fit and happy with where I’m at,” Townsend said. “It was tough with the weather. We have a lot of great guys in this field, a lot of young guys coming up right now, so I’m just extremely happy to be able to do this again.”

After a fifth-place finish in long jump last night, Townsend was able to focus in on his high jump and come out with a victory.

“My whole motto going into this season was just to be happy, be humble,” he said. “This is the season I’ve been most excited about – it’s different than any other, and I definitely feel that. Right now I’m just enjoying the process and although the mark isn’t what I wanted to see, I’m super grateful to be able to pull out another victory. I’m using this momentum to get ready for Paris.”

The 10-time world championships medalist, who won his first world title in 2015 and has since dominated the world championship and Paralympic scene, reflected on his success post-race.

“When I first started this in 2015, I had no clue where I’d end up,” he said. “As excited as I am to be here, I’m just so thankful to see what this journey has looked like. It’s been nine years of just jumping. This one meant a lot to me, and I just want to be able to have a decade of dominance.”

Team USA’s other reigning high jump world champion Ezra Frech (Los Angeles, Calif.) nearly had a long jump podium in the men’s T63 competition, but fell centimeters short of his first career international long jump medal. Frech saved his best jump for last, finishing with a mark of 6.58 meters that pulled him within seven centimeters of the podium.

The 2020 Paralympian and current world record holder in high jump will return for his signature event on May 21.

“High jump is the bread and butter, it’s my first time defending my title, which is very exciting,” Frech said. “As frustrated as I am with how today went, life goes on. There’s bigger fish to fry. I’ve got to go defend my world title in a few days, and I know that when Paris rolls around I’ll be on the podium in all three [of his events], and that’s something I’m very confident about. I’m confident in my training, I feel very prepared.”

In her international debut, 16-year-old Arelle Middleton (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) competed as the youngest member of the women’s discus F64 field and placed sixth with a best throw of 28.98 meters. Middleton, who was named one of U.S. Paralympics Track & Field High School Athletes of the Year this year, will return to the track for her signature event, the shot put, later in the competition.

A two-time medalist at the 2023 Santiago Parapan American Games, Robert Hunt (Spokane, Wash.) opened his competition in Kobe with a sixth-place finish in the men’s 400-meter T53. A veteran on the team, Hunt last competed on a world championship stage in 2013.

After qualifying for the women’s 100-meter T38 final, Catarina Guimaraes (Cranford, N.J.) finished her first-ever world championships event in eighth place. She will return to the track for the 200-meter, 400-meter and long jump – her best event.

Racing in preliminary heats, two-time Paralympic champion Breanna Clark (Los Angeles, Calif.) qualified for the final of the women’s 400-meter T20 and was set to seek a four-peat of the world championship title in the event final tomorrow night. Clark, however, later was forced to withdraw from the final due to injury.

Coming off his Americas Record in the event at the worlds qualifying meet, Hunter Woodhall (Syracuse, N.Y.) won his heat of the men’s 100-meter T64 race to earn a spot in tomorrow night’s final. He will be joined by U.S. teammates Derek Loccident (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Blake Leeper (Kingsport, Tenn.), who also advanced through to the final. Loccident won the silver medal in last night’s high jump competition, while Leeper, who nabbed 400-meter T64 silver at last year’s world championships, made his Kobe debut in the prelims May 19.

Team USA Medals – May 19

Roderick Townsend – men’s high jump T47

Other Team USA Results
Ezra Frech – 4th, men’s long jump T63
Robert Hunt – 6th, men’s 400-meter T53
Arelle Middleton – 6th, women’s discus F64
Catarina Guimaraes – 8th, women’s 100-meter T38
Breanna Clark – finals, women’s 400-meter T20
Blake Leeper – finals, men’s 100-meter T64
Hunter Woodhall – finals, men’s 100-meter T64
Derek Loccident – finals, men’s 100-meter T64.

• • •

Woodhall, Loccident snag Team USA’s first double podium, Kerkhoff earns silver on 4th day of Worlds in Kobe
KOBE, JAPAN – Three-time Paralympic medalist Hunter Woodhall (Syracuse, Utah) earned the first 100-meter podium of his career and teammate Derek Loccident (Oklahoma City, Okla.) finished just behind him to give Team USA its first double podium of the 2024 Para Athletics World Championships in Kobe, Japan.

Rounding out the medals on a stellar day on the track for the Americans was Erin Kerkhoff (Coralville, Iowa), who took silver in the women’s 200-meter T13.

After setting the Americas Record in the 100-meter T62 at the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships in March, then tying it in preliminary heats in Kobe, Woodhall was primed for his first major international medal in the event. Woodhall’s time of 11.13 was second only to Sherman Guity Guity of Costa Rica, while Loccident was close behind in third.

For Woodhall, the podium is extra sweet after a last-minute equipment issue unexpectedly kept him out of last year’s world championships 400-meter competition.

“It just feels like all of the decisions I’ve been making are starting to pay off,” Woodhall said. “I feel vindicated that those decisions were the right decisions. I’m just grateful and excited for what’s to come.”

With the medal – his first international medal in the 100-meter – Loccident becomes Team USA’s first multi-medalist of the meet. Today’s bronze follows an unprecedented high jump T64 silver medal over the weekend that saw Loccident set the T64 championship record in his international debut in the event.

“I came in trying to complete the last 30 meters of my race, which I’m still continuing to work on,” he said. “I’m just extremely happy to be here in this moment. Every day here has been special, and I’m just happy to be able to experience it with teammates like Hunter and Blake [Leeper], who also ran a great race.”

Loccident, seeking his first Paralympic berth this summer, said he has learned from the veterans on his team like Woodhall and Paralympian Blake Leeper (Kingsport, Tenn.), who also qualified for tonight’s 100-meter T64 final and finished seventh. Having teammates like Woodhall and Leeper to guide him, Loccident said, has made his adjustment to Para track and field easier.

“Their experience and the way they prepare for this race, I’m taking those notes from them,” Loccident said. “[Hunter] was in my ear telling me that the door is wide open. It’s true. This was an opportunity for me to grasp, to get on the podium for a second time. Going into my second year, I’m still trying to figure out my race.”

Kerkhoff powered to the best result of her international career with her 200-meter silver. It was an upgrade from the bronze she won in the event at last year’s world championships in Paris, which was the first international medal of her career.

The 2020 Paralympian’s time of 25.58 tied a personal best and beat out the bronze medalist, Japan’s Mana Sasaki, by more than a second.

Kerkhoff will also be competing in the 400-meter on Friday.

“I’m just glad to have one under my belt,” she said. “This is a good starting point to build off of. It’s a really good confidence builder for me, and I’m excited to see what I can do in the 400.”

Jumping for only the second time on a new prosthetic blade, Paralympian Beatriz Hatz (Lakewood, Colo.) earned a sixth-place finish in the women’s long jump T64. She jumped a season-best 5.02 meters in her first competition with the new equipment. Hatz, who won Parapan American Games gold in both long jump and the 100-meter and silver in the 200-meter last November, will return to the track later in the week for both of her sprinting events.

Competing in her first career world championships race, Taylor Swanson (Spokane, Wash.) qualified first overall for tomorrow’s final of the women’s 100-meter T37 competition. Swanson’s time of 12.99 seconds was nearly a quarter-second ahead of the second-fastest qualifying time.

Brand new to Para sport, Swanson made her international debut at the 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile, where she won two silver medals.

Team USA Medals – May 20

Erin Kerkhoff – women’s 200-meter T13
Hunter Woodhall – men’s 100-meter T64

Derek Loccident – men’s 100-meter T64

Other Team USA Results
Beatriz Hatz – 6th, women’s long jump T64
Blake Leeper – 7th, men’s 100-meter T64
Taylor Swanson – finals, women’s 100-meter T37.

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